The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are being talked about everywhere these days and it seems a new research study comes out almost daily. Here’s an example from last week:
For 10 minutes at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Switzerland,100 high-powered delegates in a Leading Mindfully workshop sat in silence, noticing their breath. Led by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, the stretch of silence was intended to get delegates out of their heads, and instead notice what was happening around them.
“This is a very unusual event at the World Economic Forum, and it’s diagnostic of something much larger that is happening,” said Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who helped popularize mindfulness meditation in recent decades. “What was once considered a radical, lunatic, fringe thing has been incorporated into medicine, science, academics and more.” “Modern science is validating ancient wisdom,” Ms. Huffington said. “We are living through a major tipping point.” Check out the article here: http://healthyhealers.blogspot.ca/2015/01/mindfulness-at-2015-world-economic-forum.html
There are complex reasons why we may have fallen into a pattern of mindlessness, of being stuck on auto-pilot or of putting our head down to get through a difficult day. We ‘manage’ our stress on a continuum from distraction or avoidance to substance and process addiction. It might be relatively benign like shoe shopping, Netflix or compulsive overwork or a more recognized addiction like gambling, drugs and alcohol. In our culture, stress is rampant, time pressures are intense and many of us have way more to deal with than we feel we can manage.
Mindfulness is simple to practice and powerful in effect. We simply rest for a moment and tune in to our felt experience. There are many ways to build this into our busy lives. The breath is always available. Some of us may find we have breathing patterns that create more anxiety. The same is true for tension in the body. Here are examples of two short mindfulness practices:
Relax and breathe: download audio or listen here (length 3:32)
Become aware of your body from head to toes.
Notice the space your body is occupying and the support of the chair and floor.
Notice your forehead and eyebrows, softening any tightness or worry.
Exhale and relax your tongue and jaw.
On your next exhale, relax the back of the neck and down through the large muscles of the back.
Exhale paying attention to the sides of the neck and allow a wave of relaxation to flow through your arms, hands, fingers.
Come back to the softness of your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, mouth and down through the front of your body.
Exhale and soften the throat, large muscles of the chest, stomach, lower belly and hips.
Bring your attention to your thighs, lower legs, soles of the feet and the toes. Notice your whole body, head to toes.
Now notice the movement of the body as you breathe. You can place a hand on your stomach if you like, further relaxing those muscles to allow the body to breathe without restriction.
Feel the flow of breath in your nostrils, the warmth of the exhalation and coolness of the inhalation.
Relax with each exhale, soften the stomach and let the body breathe without your active effort.
Notice as you inhale if the movement is in your upper chest or lower toward the stomach area. Keep relaxing the stomach and the effort.
Continue as long as you like, then open your eyes and go about your day.
Note: you can do this simple practice anytime with eyes open when you’re waiting at a light, in a meeting at work or before a meal.
Looking Around the Room: or listen here (length 4:23)
With your eyes open, look around the room. Take your time going from one observation to the next.
Notice the space in the room as well as objects that are in that space.
Notice there is nowhere that is devoid of space. There is empty space and objects within the space. There may be a wall and window and outside of that there is space and objects across the street and up into the sky.
Look at the colors and shapes you are seeing. Notice there is nowhere the colors and shapes are missing. There is a continuity to the appearance of colors and shapes.
Notice how your mind automatically labels things as you see them. That is the wall with this particular color of paint. Those are curtains. A lamp. A picture.
As you slowly scan the colors and shapes in the room, notice some things are neutral. They evoke little or no response.
Other items may provoke a positive response, like photos of grandchildren or the sand dollars we collected.
For someone else, a photo of a grandchild may evoke loss that they rarely see them. Our responses are specific to our own lives and situations.
We all experience neutrality, that some things trigger a negative reaction and that others evoke a positive response.
For a moment, focus on an item that triggered a response. Look at the details of the colors and shapes. Is it 3 dimensional in space or flat like a picture? Does that object know you had a response to it? Does it want you to do something? Is it a threat?
When we look closely, we see there is an item and a response. The response to it happens in our mind, not on the item itself. It is visual information that is triggering memory which appears as words or images and is often accompanied by felt sensation or energies.
Take a few deep breaths, relax your gaze and turn your attention inward for a moment. Notice there may be a little whirl of thought in the mind. Images or memories might be present. You may notice a tightness in the back of your neck or pulsing energy in your solar plexus. Unnoticed, this may lead to reaching for distraction or an impulse to turn away.
Allow yourself to rest with it for a moment, breathing and noticing. When you’re ready, continue with your day.